Buckthorn and Hatred – It’s prickly
by Randall Rogers, Reprinted with Permission
Last year we moved to an old farmhouse with a large lot and a very rural setting, considering its still in the city. The oak trees are majestic and the canopy rich. So is the abundance of Buckthorn. It turns out Buckthorn is a very successful invasive tree species first introduced for its durability and hardiness as well as its attractive leaf and dark berries. Then things got out of control. It is safe to say, driving through this area, if you see woodland areas, it is largely infested with Buckthorn, even though it looks rather pretty from a distance, its prickly up close.
We started removing Buckthorn immediately and it turns out, it isn’t so easy to do. It has a way of coming back with vigor. Last fall we began cutting thinking we’d get around to poisoning before the snow fell, well, everything cut came back ten fold. And, its sneaky stuff. I cut most of the large stuff a couple feet off the ground so I would recognize the work still to be done. It doesn’t sprout at the cut, it sends shoots just below the surface of the dirt, making it very difficult to cut again.
It can be pulled, and after a good rain, with the earth softened up that is a pretty good option. Still, it is a full body sport. There are mechanical pulling devices but, if there is any size to the tree, be prepared to throw yourself to the ground in the process.
Mowing is no answer. Recently I spent three hours beneath a single tree where previous owners simply mowed. There were 40 – 50 sprouts per square foot and because they were mowed, the foliage is gone but, the roots remain – often with little stumps the size of a pencil that are hard to wrestle out.
The roots remain. So it is with hatred.
Listening to the accounts of yesterday’s massacre in Orlando, got me thinking about the prevalence and the hidden nature of Hatred in this country. Turns out it has deep roots, its invasive and more than a little seductive too.
I say seductive because hatred often masquerades as fervor or passion about something. Say religious freedom. If you practice faith of one sort or another, that can be a powerful and life-giving thing, I get that. But if your faith system demands an allegiance because it is the only “right” one, then it endorses a form of superiority or exclusiveness. There is a backside to that kind of system that very furtively approves of hatred and finger pointing. It lies beneath the surface and can exist for years unseen. Don’t be fooled, it is a powerful and very invasive root system and when Fear enters the picture as it does when violence erupts, that root system gets stronger.
My judgment is that we prefer to mow the lawn in this country. We care deeply about that manicured look. Its fast and easy, it looks good until you are on your knees. Its only then that you feel the nubs of the thriving roots beneath. Funny thing about Buckthorn roots, they are shadowy and black all the better metaphor for Hatred.
Buckthorn, like Hatred, is debilitating. There’s a patch of land between our house and our neighbors house. This land was so full of Buckthorn last fall you could not see the neighbor’s house. I did not know where to start. Many days I simply chose to do something else. The task seemed so absolutely monumental. This is, I think, where Terrorism really succeeds. Whether it is Fundamental Islamic Terrorism from abroad or within (I see many Christians and Corporations as perfectly willing to be Terrorists too), if the result is powerlessness, then the fight is over. Neither of us are powerless in the face of this blight.
Instead, tackling this project of removal every day, systematically, something unexpected began to happen. Yes, I made real progress against the Buckthorn. More importantly, I began to see my neighbor more clearly. Truth! It demands that I am attentive and relentless.
Is it possible then, if we each take responsibility for our own yard and tackling the hidden forms of hatred, whose very roots we may begin the process unaware of, that we will see the world around us more clearly?
Excuse me, I’ve got more work to do.